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Feeling busy is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to always be that way

(ENTREPRENEUR) At some point, everyone feels overwhelmingly busy but you don’t have to be stuck in that feeling.

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How to Feel Less Busy

Most of us would consider ourselves busy in the plainest sense of the word—and if you’re here and reading this article, it seems safe to assume to that you fit into the busy mold, too.

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While making oneself less busy is often an exercise in dawdling or running pointless errands (the printer can only run out of elbow grease so many times, Harold), here are a few ways you can make your own haste more bearable.

Start early, finish early.

Contrary to what non-morning people think, beginning your day earlier than necessary doesn’t shift your hours of operation up a few pegs. You’ll often notice that waking up a couple hours early doesn’t alter your bedtime.

Instead, you grant yourself an extra chunk of daylight with which to accomplish your goals.

Additionally, replacing the feeling of exhaustion that accompanies late hours with a sense of euphoria at finishing one’s work an hour or two early will leave you feeling mentally relaxed.

Respect your own “Do Not Disturb” hours.

Maybe you’re one of those people who can’t leave your cell phone or email inbox alone while you’re off the clock. I’m guilty of this myself; the stress of knowing that your inbox is probably filling up with hate mail from your boss and free money from Nigeria as you take an hour to yourself is absolutely maddening.

Ask yourself this, though: when was the last time your actual inbox matched your perception of what it might look like after a night away?

Once you learn that it’s okay to punch out mentally as well, your periods of rest and relaxation will significantly improve.

Similarly, it can be tempting to want to get a head start on the following day’s tasks. Resist the urge to plan or do some “light work”—instead, treat your off-the-clock hours the way they deserve to be treated and just have a damn beer.

Minimize distractions.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with tasks when you keep seeing white numbers on red backgrounds popping up on your Facebook page and your phone is constantly whistling at you. Since these are often tasks that don’t matter in the context of the work day, consider muting them while you’re in work mode. The less visual and audible input you have, the less you’ll feel like you’re juggling.

Leave a small task unfinished.

This is a favorite of mine. At the end of the day, try to leave a small, easily accomplished item on your checklist for the following day. This will allow you to start the following morning with a work-related warmup of sorts.

Especially if you’re getting up earlier than necessary, having this tiny task will help ease you into the day’s routine.

Even if the task is something as small as reloading your stapler or installing a computer update, this is a fantastic way to feel productive while not overburdening yourself from the moment you step into your office.

Establish a reasonable effort baseline.

It’s easy to want to go all-out when you first take a position or receive a promotion, but try pacing yourself a bit. Tackling an insane amount of work at the beginning of your time with an employer will set that standard as your baseline in their eyes, while leaving yourself with some space to improve in the beginning will afford you some breathing room later.

This isn’t to say that you should purposefully suck at your job, of course—just know that you don’t have to scale Mount Everest every day to hold onto your job.

Pay attention to down time.

It’s easy to note the amount of time you’re spending performing a certain task. Less easy is realizing and embracing the brief respites between tasks, or finding time to relax while performing an easy job.

When I was a sophomore in college, I had a job cleaning the floors in the UC kitchen. It wasn’t a particularly entertaining job, of course, and it was fairly challenging most nights; however, I knew that the point at which I had to wash the kitchen mats was a time to look forward to, since it required little cognitive input and allowed me a break from the stench of rotting produce and cleaning chemicals.

I also grew potatoes under a soup kettle in that kitchen as a form of retribution toward our grumpy boss, though, so perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me.

The point here is simply that taking some time to appreciate the invariable breaks between momentous tasks throughout the day will make the day seem marginally less crowded, which may be exactly what you need.

And, failing that, try kicking a potato or two under your boss’ desk. They’ll sprout for, like, no reason at all, and you’ll get a laugh out of it.

#chillpill

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove’s Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to determine your freelance rates based on data, not your gut

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Setting freelancer rates can be quite the tricky business. This tool does arms you with the data you need to grow your business

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The bulk of my professional career has been spent as a freelancer. The designation of “freelancer” has taken me on an interesting path that allowed for projects and opportunities I didn’t even know existed.

While I’m grateful for each and every opportunity, I now look back on some of these experiences and realize that I was vastly underpaid. For the most part, this is my fault as someone paying for a service is looking for the lowest possible rate and I never bothered to bargain out of fear of losing the role.

It was even at a point where I dreaded being asked my hourly rate because I didn’t know what the norm was. There was always a fear of charging too much and getting dropped for someone cheaper, or charging too little and looking inexperienced.

We recently talked about knowing your worth and how we freelancers often under charge for our services. Luckily, as this career path becomes more and more popular, there are now more resources devoted to helping us know what to charge.

Such a resource comes in the form of Freelance Rates Explorer. Created by Bonsai, this online tool gives users the ability explore rates from 40,000 freelancers worldwide.

“There are many sites like Glassdoor that offer salary data comparisons for full time employees,” said the tool’s developers. “However, there isn’t a site like this dedicated to provide insights on freelancers rates. We had this data, so we built the Rate Explorer to make it easy for freelancers to compare their rates in the largest publicly available rates database on the Internet.”

In order to find the standard rate for their field, users will input their role (either development or design), their skills (full stack, front-end, back-end, DevOps, iOS, and Android), experience (in years), and location. The Rate Explorer then generates a bar graph based on the answers and will show the most common hourly rates based on the number of freelancers and the rates range.

Bonsai also offers proposals, contracts, time tracking, invoicing and payments, and reporting. All of this is designed for freelancers.

As for the Rates Explorer, seeing the numbers calculated right in front of you may make you realize that you’re vastly underselling yourself. This tool can be especially beneficial to use now as we go into a new year and may be updating contracts.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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Business Entrepreneur

Embracing productivity apps, how entrepreneurs can control their time

(ENTREPRENEUR) Owning your own business comes with great reward, but one major risk is inefficiencies – let’s discuss how you can streamline your productivity efforts.

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As we all know too well, entrepreneurs are time-poor.

Changing the world of technology, developing a life-changing product or finding a new process to a complicated, lengthy task, entrepreneurs are continually moving, shaping and evolving their world around them, but frequently run out of time at the end of their day.

Now many modern entrepreneurs have some form of productivity in place. Whether this is an A3 piece of paper with jottings of what needs to be done next or a manageable to-do list provided by their smartphone where they can brain dump all of their ideas and to-dos into one space.

Working smarter, and harder is usually the object of all those looking to create a new business. But respecting the value of productivity applications can play into the hands of those building the next Facebook or Amazon.

By all means, this doesn’t mean you need the correct productivity tools to become the next prominent entrepreneurs, if that’s the case we’d have much fewer businesses than we have now thriving, the thesis of this is for entrepreneurs and business owners to begin embracing productivity apps to help them scale and capture essential parts of their day to help get more done.

So where does an entrepreneur start?

It’s straightforward. Begin with three core tools.

* A to-do list application.
* A note-taking tool.
* A calendar application.

These three resources will provide you with the fundamental pillars of productivity in your hectic schedule. Let’s examine how that is the case for each one.

A to-do list application can be a primary list of actionable items for to the next 30-days. Think of a to-do list application as your day planner, an actionable set of tasks to get done on the workday.

This window of to-dos will determine your ground level work and checklist for the day. Traditionally they are prioritized allowing you to accomplish the most critical tasks first or getting them done by the end of the day so that you can help progress forward.

This is a potential master tool for the entrepreneur. A to-do list app can help you capture, deter and plan things to do helping to reduce stress and reliability in your brain to remember critical tasks and actions. A proactive theory from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen helps to define this as “open loops” a process that highlights a need to reduce active to-do’s in your head and to capture them on paper or another form of capture method to relieve your brain’s activity focusing on this.

A note-taking tool provides you with a way to capture essential data or information. Unlike a to-do list application, the information you’ll be capturing is static. This means it isn’t necessarily actionable but provides value for reference or planning. Notes are handy for planning and reference purposes. When it comes to planning your projects and high-level work (like clients, product updates, accounting, etc.) using notes will help you to collect everything into one hub to help you to complete all your major projects and tasks.

And finally, a calendar application works as how you’d expect. A way to capture events and activities. Not to be confused with a to-do list application, the calendar application should solely include events and activities, not tasks. Feel free to use the calendar layout to block out time but don’t get into the habit of adding tasks to your calendar application, it’ll make things very messy!

So what productivity apps should I start with?! Let’s give you some recommendations.

For a to-do list applications, an entrepreneur should look for flexibility to scale with the application but the patience to stick with an application to help them get more done. To-do list applications perfect for entrepreneurs include Todoist, TickTick, Asana, Nozbe or Trello. They are strong starting points and will provide you with all the features you’ll need to start capturing and sorting those important to-dos.

Note-taking tools come highly recommended. To help the scale driven entrepreneur, there are two tools that standout as the resources entrepreneurs should consider when looking at note-taking applications. They would be Evernote and OneNote. Both provide you with functional experiences for bringing notes in from email, documents and other files helping you to free up time and space. Avoid Apple Notes as your default and sole way of the organization as due to the lack of folders/notebooks you struggle to keep things as organized as you would with the likes of Evernote and OneNote.

Calendar resources are rare to find. Entrepreneurs will discover themselves freeing up a lot of stress by using a calendar tool, by being able to see all the activities coming up and help free up your calendar for important meetings. The features within the calendar tools like “invite a guest” will provide a way to connect with your invitee and avoid any miss-capture of time/date for the meeting.

Try Fantastical 2 (Mac/iOS), Google Calendar, Kin Calendar or Calendars 5 (iOS). These are more advanced calendar tools, so if you are concerned, it’s okay to try Apple Calendar or Outlook Calendar, just make sure you solely use one calendar and not multiple to avoid missing those meetings.

In essence, entrepreneurs should consider productivity app to help control their time. Helping to implement a system might take a few weeks to get used to and a few tweaks along the way, but it’ll undoubtedly free up time from stress and worry, helping you to do the more valuable things like communicating with your customers, chatting with your clients or growing your team.

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